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How to Write a Volunteer Application

Schools, nonprofit organizations and charities rely heavily on volunteers to staff a wide range of essential programs and services. In 2018, 77.4 million Americans provided nearly 7 billion hours of service valued at $167 billion. To attract and retain high-quality candidates, managers need to develop a comprehensive volunteer application process that’s similar to what’s used to recruit paid employees.

Once a prospective volunteer candidate contacts your organization, the next step is usually to have them complete a volunteer application form. This guide explains what a volunteer form is, when to use it and how to customize our sample volunteer application form for your particular needs.

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What is a volunteer application form?

A volunteer application is a document that’s used to collect and store information about your volunteer applicants. Simply put, it’s the volunteer version of a job application.

Your volunteer form should include some basic information about your organization, what programs and services you offer and the role volunteers play. You’ll also want to provide some brief examples of your volunteer positions, along with information on what type of commitment you need from your applicants.

Why use a volunteer form?

Volunteer application forms are important for a variety for reasons, including:

  • To collect and store critical information on applicants
  • To quickly screen candidates prior to proceeding with the volunteer recruitment process
  • To give applicants greater insight into the needs of your organization
  • To demonstrate that your agency has done its due diligence to minimize potential harm to your clients and the community caused by a volunteer

Keep in mind that your application is just one of many tools used to recruit, screen and place volunteers. Ideally, you should ask prospective volunteers to complete an application after they’ve attended an in-person or virtual information session and prior to scheduling a one-on-one interview. You can use your volunteer application form to screen candidates and identify the best applicants.

The basics

Regardless of what type of volunteer you’re looking for or the kinds of programs and services your organization offers, your volunteer application form should include the following:

  • Details about your organization, including your address and the name and contact details of your volunteer manager
  • Name of applicant
  • Preferred pronoun (he, she, they)
  • Date of birth
  • Contact information (including email, home and mobile phone numbers)
  • Home address
  • Emergency contact information, including relationship to the applicant
  • Preferred communication (email, SMS or phone)
  • Availability (days/hours and length of commitment)
  • What type of work they’d like to do (administration, client services, remote)
  • Which program they’d like to be placed with
  • Why the applicant wants to volunteer with your organization
  • Any limitations on the type of work the applicant is able or willing to do
  • Credentials and skills
  • At least one personal and one professional reference
  • A spot for the date and the applicant’s signature
  • Space for the applicant to add their own notes

If you’re seeking volunteers with particular skills or qualifications, be sure to include these on your form as well. This can include:

  • First aid or CPR certification
  • Driver’s license
  • Access to a vehicle
  • Access to the internet

Agencies that involve work with vulnerable populations, such as children and youth, the elderly and people living with disabilities, may need to complete criminal record and credit checks on their volunteers. If that applies to your agency, consult with a lawyer to find out what information to collect and when to collect it.

In some cases, it makes sense to ask for the applicant’s Social Security number on the volunteer application form. If you need to complete background or credit checks on your volunteers, be sure to seek their consent in advance. It can also be a good idea to only do advanced security checks once the applicant has successfully completed preliminary screening and an interview since running these checks can be costly and time-consuming.

Collect only the information you need

Only ask your applicants for information that directly relates to volunteering with your organization. Not only does this help to streamline the process of onboarding volunteers, but also it lets candidates know that you respect their time and privacy.

Volunteer application forms that are too long, ask for a great deal of personal information or request information that isn’t relevant can come across as invasive and even offensive. You also need to ensure that all the information you collect on your volunteer form is stored in a way that protects the applicant’s privacy and guards against identity theft.

Sample volunteer application form

Here’s a basic volunteer application form, modeled from a standard job application form, that can be easily adapted to meet the needs of your school, nonprofit or group.

About You

First name:

Last name:

Your preferred pronoun (they, she, he):

Date of birth:


Phone number:

Email address :

Preferred contact method (SMS, phone or email):

Emergency contact name & relationship to you:

Emergency contact phone:

Your Skills & Education

Language(s) you speak:

Language(s) you read/write:

Level of education completed:

Special skills and interests:

Any additional information:


Days/hours you’re available:

How long would you like to volunteer with our agency?


Briefly describe why you’re interested in volunteering with our organization:

What type of volunteer work would you like to do? (Direct client service, remote/work from home, warehousing, delivery, etc.)


Would you be willing to undergo a criminal record check?

Anything else you’d like us to know?

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